It ought to be obvious by now. But just in case it isn’t, Jeet Heer explains why “Democrats Should Make Abortion a Cornerstone Issue” at The Nation:
Ballot initiatives are the best electoral bellwether for where the abortion fight stands in the United States in the post-Dobbs era. There were ballot initiatives in six states in 2022 and they revealed a remarkable consensus that cut across the usual regional divides: The pro-choice side won not just in blue states like Vermont and California but also in purple states like Michigan—and even in very red states like Montana, Kansas, and Kentucky. In an otherwise polarized country, abortion has become the opposite of a wedge issue. It doesn’t matter if voters are Black or white, women or men, Democrats or Republicans, college-educated or high school dropouts: Overwhelming majorities of most major demographics support a woman’s right to control her own fertility as previously enshrined under Roe v. Wade. When given a chance to vote for it, they will vote for reproductive freedom.
Heer dissects the evolving Republican confusion and splintering on abortion rights, then says that “Democrats, however, face their own divisions on abortion.” Heer adds,
In a wide-ranging survey in New York, Rebecca Traister noted that the party is torn “between a calcified leadership that remains ambivalent about making abortion access truly central to a Democratic rhetorical and policy framework, and frustrated politicians who see the fight for reproductive autonomy as both a moral and strategic linchpin.” The main example of “calcified leadership” is Joe Biden, accurately described by Traister as “a Catholic boy from Scranton, first sworn into the Senate weeks before Roe was decided in 1973, who spent the early decades of his career as an opponent of abortion rights.” Over time, Biden has moved into line with his party’s position on abortion—but only half-heartedly and reluctantly.“Calcified leadership” can also be seen in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the health problems of the octogenarian Dianne Feinstein have kneecapped Democratic efforts to rebalance the courts.
As opposed to this “calcified leadership,” Traister points to younger politicians like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer who are pushing to make abortion a cornerstone issue.
Abortion doesn’t exist in isolation, but is tied to many other issues Democrats care about: the need to rescue the courts from reactionary rule, the defense of democracy against an increasingly autocratic GOP that is willing to govern by minority rule, the vision of a more egalitarian country where women are free and equal citizens. But to use abortion as a cornerstone issue, the Democrats first need to advance their own internal reform. The party’s gerontocracy that is reluctant to fight needs to step aside—or get pushed.
Abortion rights may not be the issue of broadest concern for 2024 voters. It could be easily subordinated to economic trends, depending on how the economy performs over the next 18 months, or perhaps even gun violence. But abortion rights will likely remain the issue on which the Democrats have the largest advantage in polls, even in red states, and Democrats should not be shy about making the most out of their edge on the issue.